Another thing no one ever taught me: that I could be a writer one day. I figured that one out all by myself. Getting PAID to put words on paper? What an idea!
Despite very long odds (more on that another day), I’ve been making a living with words since 1984. The last eight years have mostly been Internet work, with a few magazine and newspaper assignments on the side.
After roaming around the blogosphere during the workday and after hours, I can say that some remarkable work is being produced. A bumper crop of mediocrity blooms out there, too.
For the past four years I’ve been speaking about writing at the annual Financial Blogger Conference. Invariably I’m peppered with questions, in person and via e-mail later on, about how to become a better writer.
That’s why I recently created the Write A Blog People Will Read course: to teach what I’ve learned over the past three decades. As I worked on the course I knew that I’d also create a companion blog – not as a marketing tactic, but rather as a way to get people talking about writing.
The blog won’t be focused on mere mechanics, although I’ll probably speak my mind on subjects like comma splicing and Phrases Writers Should Not Use. (Example: “It’s that time again” is a lazy way to begin a post. Just tell us what time it is. Better yet, come up with a more interesting way to introduce your idea.)
More than just grammar
I want to talk about wordsmithing in a much broader sense. How do we choose topics? Do topics choose us? How much information is too much information? What makes a story worth telling? When is a story ours to tell?
How can we deal with writer’s block and other forms of self-doubt? What are the best ways to self-edit? At what point can a blog threaten a relationship? Can you maintain consistently high blogging standards on top of a day job and a personal life?
And on and on and on.
I’ll also bounce off articles by other writers, to praise a certain technique or to weigh in on a topic the author presents. It’s likely that I’ll do think pieces or inspirational posts as well. (Jeff Goins does this regularly on his Goins, Writer site, tackling issues such as creativity, confidence and finding your passion.)
Yet I can’t completely define this blog because it’s still being born. Best guess: It will be have the same no-rules-rules as my personal website, SurvivingAndThriving. I’ve described that one as “a playground for words.” Although ostensibly about money and midlife, it’s really about whatever I feel like writing that day.
Getting the conversation going
In that site’s inaugural post, “Why I’m writing and why you should read it,” I made it clear that I was not a “woman writer,” because of all the baggage that phrase entails:
“Look: Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I’m going to write about my cute kids or my cute shoes.
“I am more than just a double-X chromosome. I’m a person who grew up broke, worked unskilled jobs, gave birth out of wedlock, washed diapers on a scrub board, endured an emotionally/psychologically abusive marriage, clawed my way into a journalism job despite having no education, suffered from serious depression, dealt with a child’s near-fatal illness and subsequent disability, helped care for a dying parent, stood in line outside food banks, pushed myself to go back to school (in my late 40s).
“You don’t go through all that without learning a few things about life. And I’m still learning.
“Sometimes I’ll write about what I’ve learned. Sometimes I’ll write about mindful living. But I might also report live from the Bachelors Auction and Wilderness Woman Competition in Talkeetna, Alaska (first weekend in December; watch this space), or tell you about my lunch with a couple of homeless guys named Freeway and Leprechaun.
“Who needs reality programming? Our actual reality is much more interesting than the edited-for-television kind.”
In short: I find stories and tell them. That’s what I’ve always done, even when writing “police said” briefs at The Chicago Tribune.
At this site I’ll definitely talk about storytelling. How to do it, how not to do it. Managing it as a side gig, making a living at it. Respecting the process, refusing to believe there’s one single “process.” Taking the craft seriously, fortheloveofGod not taking it too seriously.
The point is not just to teach but also to get some conversations going. So please tell me – and anyone else who’s listening – about your writing life.
Do you have one yet or are you wondering how to start? Do you scribble for enjoyment or are you getting published for pay? Is finding time to write a serious issue and if so, how do you combat it?
Are you a closet blogger or a full-time freelancer? When people roll their eyes condescendingly and say, “Of course you’re a writer, dear,” how do you handle it?
Let’s talk to one another, to offer ideas or to ask for help. If you sell a guest post or finally quit that day job to focus on the written word, drop by and say so. This is a place to share successes and struggles alike with people we’ll never meet but whom we’ll come to know as friends.
Welcome to my world. Now: Tell me about yours.